Tacoma police chief to ban chokeholds, require officers to intervene in excessive force

Tacoma police chief to ban chokeholds, require officers to intervene in excessive force
Tacoma Police Department Chief Don Ramsdell

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell said Tuesday he plans to ban chokeholds, require officers to intervene if a fellow officer uses excessive force and direct police to use a verbal warning prior to using deadly force.

The new policies are meant to get the 325-member department in adherence with “8 Can’t Wait,” a viral campaign aimed at police reform.

The campaign gained popularity after George Floyd, a black man, died May 25 because a white Minneapolis police officer placed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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Ramsdell said he has ordered a review of the department’s policies and procedures to look at ways of making the eight recommendations more prominent in Tacoma’s training.

“We agree with the goals and principles of the campaign,” the chief said in a statement. “And we’re not waiting. We’re pushing forward on all of those goals and look forward to working on this with the Citizen Police Advisory Committee.”

The committee’s next meeting is Monday.

Focus will be given to policies which are not currently consistent, like banning chokeholds and strangleholds.

The department’s training doesn’t include how to use those types of restraints, but it doesn’t ban them either.

Ramsdell said he has directed staff to draft a policy “to specifically forbid these methods.”

Another change will be ordering officers to use a verbal warning before taking deadly force, such as in an officer-involved shootings.

He said he’s also working on a new policy to “explicitly require officers to intervene if a fellow officer clearly uses excessive force,” according to the department’s statement.

As for the other five campaign goals, police said the department’s policies are already in line.

They are:

▪ Requiring de-escalation, which Ramsdell said is already part of the use of force guidelines.

He pointed out officers were already trained in de-escalation, but will receive additional training in the area as required by a new state law.

▪ Exhaust all other means before shooting. The chief said using deadly force was already a last resort as part of the Police Department’s use of force policy.

▪ Ban shooting at moving vehicles, which was already a policy in Tacoma.

Officers, however, are allowed to shoot at a moving vehicle “to protect against imminent danger to the life of an officer or others,” according to the department.

▪ Require comprehensive reporting.

Although Tacoma police already have such a system, Ramsdell said he has ordered a review of how use of force is reported in an effort to find ways to be more transparent.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said Tuesday that she the appreciates the chief’s response, but that there’s more reform to be done.

“’8 Can’t Wait’ is the low-hanging fruit,” Woodards said. “Those are the things you can do sooner rather than later, and then we’re going to have to do a deep dive.”

Woodards declined to provide specifics on what that deep dive might look like. She said she’s waiting to hear more from CPAC and the community.

“Reform is a community process,” she said.

Campaign Zero maintains that following all eight policies could decrease police violence by 72 percent.

Although the website scores several cities on implementing these recommendations, Seattle is the only city in Washington listed.